CARTA has begun to make plans for expanding their operations back to pre-pandemic levels. However, before Executive Director Lisa Maragnano and the rest of the board do that, they need to formulate a plan for implementing those procedures in a safe way.
The Safety Management System (SMS) that comprises the agency’s safety plan is a federal regulation mandated by the Federal Transit Administration, and is independent of CARTA's pre-pandemic operational levels.
Cyndi Bonds went through a cursory first look at the SMS.
“With the system safety program plan, it was geared toward a reactive approach, whereas SMS (Safety Management System) is a proactive approach,” said Ms. Bonds. “We will be proactive when accounting for safety risks, and part of that is developing this plan.”
The first aspect of the SMS is a safety policy, which establishes a safety statement and assigns roles and responsibilities to the leaders of this system. In addition to this, workers need to have a clear way to report safety concerns or suggestions in a confidential way.
“The idea behind the employee safety reporting is so they can report confidently that they’re not going to be reprimanded for it, unless it can be proven that they were being negligent in some way,” said Ms. Bond.
The next component is safety risk management, which is where CARTA identifies hazards and assesses them using the military standard. She said that while CARTA will try to eliminate the hazard, there are occasions where the hazard can only be mitigated and whatever risk accompanying the hazard is unavoidable.
The third component is assurance. This is where CARTA will monitor and measure the mitigations from the risk management plan. This is where CARTA may create a new bus stop or route and thus need to evaluate if this change would create additional safety issues.
“Anytime that we have safety (concerns), it’s an ongoing process,” said Ms. Bonds. “It’s not a one and done thing, and we’re trying to always improve that.”
The last part of SMS is promoting safety to workers and passengers alike. This is where CARTA creates a training program that will teach employees, which include executive staff and key staff.
“Our front-line employees are our best asset,” said Ms. Bonds. “They are our eyes and ears on the road, and will be the first one to identify when there is a safety risk.”
In the future, Ms. Bonds said the board will be asked to review the plan, and then either approve it or create a list of improvements. She said the documented plan will be reviewed every year, and an executive committee will be established and tasked with ensuring this plan is followed.
When Chairman John Bilderback asked Ms. Bonds when the board will receive a copy of the plan, she said it will probably be around three months.
“I’m working through a few changes,” said Ms. Bonds. “We have a draft available and we’ve sent it to TDOT for them to review it and respond.”
Once TDOT reads over the document, they can list concerns or problems they may have with the plan. After that, Ms. Bonds will create a revised copy that the CARTA board will see, most likely within the next three weeks. Going by this timeline, the board will vote to approve the final plan during next month’s board meeting.